So, the cat has Chronic Kidney Disease. That's not good, but it's better than outright kidney failure, which was suspected yesterday. From this point on Putter will be on a specialized (and expensive) cat food, and assuming he starts eating again, should still be around for quite some time.
By almost any reasonable measure, today was a bad day.
The morning started with a car accident less than a mile from home. Surveying the snow this morning, I decided to be clever and wear my comfy, oversized hiking boots. Less than 15 minutes later I found myself sliding into the back of an SUV, my left foot caught beneath the brake pedal after I'd tried to let off the clutch. The SUV wasn't damaged—my car was only going two or three miles per hour when we hit—but its trailer hitch tore off my front license plate and messed up my front bumper.
This evening brought a $312 visit to the vet for my sick kitty. Putter hadn't been eating much over the past few weeks and had lost a lot of weight, and I was expecting the vet to say the cat was stressed out as a result of all the moving he's gone through over the past few months. Instead, it now looks like he may be suffering from kidney failure. They took blood for tests, and we should have a better idea as to his state tomorrow morning. I really hope he's OK, but from reading about feline kidney failure online this evening, I have a very bad feeling about the entire situation.
Back at home after the vet, I'd hoped to settle down, decompress from the day, hang out with the cat, and, well, do some laundry. That plan came to an end while I was downstairs at the washing machine. Lisa yelled to me from the top of the steps, and when I got upstairs I learned that she'd accidentally locked us out of our unit. In the end I had to run across Hennepin Avenue in my pajamas to call a locksmith from a nearby coffee shop. (Did I mention it was 17 degrees outside?) A half hour and $85 later, we were back in our condo.
And now, on top of all of that, I seem to be coming down with a cold. What a fucking day.
~ ~ ~
I have more to write about the weekend—good things, generally—but for obvious reasons I'm really not in the mood to do so right now.
11:50 in the evening.
It's been a busy couple of days. Lisa and I spent most of today in Milwaukee, hitting both the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Milwaukee Public Museum. The MAM was great, but the MPM... wasn't.
I knew the museum was a famous for its dioramas, and knew that many of exhibits were aimed primarily at kids. But I swear I thought they had other exhibits there as well. In retrospect, I was clearly confusing the MPM with some other museum—I'll be damned if I can remember which one—and so I regrettably have to rescind previous statements that the MPM was one of the best general purpose museums I've been too. Much of it felt dusty and dated, and in some cases seemed so far gone as to make me wonder about the accuracy of the displays.
That said, the MAM was good, as usual. In addition to the strong exhibits, the building remains one of the most amazing spaces I've ever visited.
We had lunch at the Shops at Grand Avenue, and over the course of the day wandered around much of downtown. Milwaukee's recent history has been less than glamourous, but its downtown feels like it's on the verge of becoming interesting. The city has a special place in my heart—when I was growing up an hour and a half up the lake it really formed my idea of what a big city is supposed to be like—so I hope it works out well.
Dinner was back at Lisa's folks' in Madison. Not surprisingly, leftover Thanksgiving dinner is just as filling as regular Thanksgiving dinner.
~ ~ ~
Yesterday evening brought a chance for Lisa to catch up with old friends and coworkers. I basically tagged along for most of the evening, eventually finding myself involved in an unexpected conversation about how often one meets Jewish American Indians. There was much more to the evening, but it's not anything that can be told without potentially violating the privacy of people I don't really know.
~ ~ ~
One of the Westies, Max, had basically fallen asleep across my legs.
"The doggie loves you, honey."
"Yeah, although I don't know why."
It's a little before noon this cold Friday morning. There's a light snow outside, which seems appropriate for the first day of the Christmas shopping season. (The nut cases who rose for the 6:00 openings were greeted by -15 wind chills.) This afternoon will bring some shopping with Lisa and her mom, followed by dinner with one of my uncles and my grandma.
Thanksgiving was good. Lisa's family didn't do anything too unusual—no ritual turkey sacrifices, for example—so I'm thinking my family may have been pretty normal after all. The dinner was good, with Lisa's dad roasting a bird on his grill, and her mom making potatoes, beans, and numerous other items with exorbinant amounts of butter and brown sugar.
I had breakfast this morning, but I probably didn't need to. The New York Times had an article yesterday that stating the average Thanksgiving dinner runs somewhere in the range of 3000 calories, and think we may have exceeded that last night.
But it's Thanksgiving, so I think that's allowed.
This Thanksgiving is going to be a bit different. My memory may be faulty, but I think this will be the first time I won't be spending the holiday with my folks. Instead, I'll be heading down to Madison with Lisa where we'll be hanging out with her family for a few days. Depending on how things play out, there may also be a visit with some of my Madisonian relatives, a day trip to Milwaukee, and hopefully some visits with various friends of Lisa and mine.
It'll be interesting to see how another family handles the holiday. My assumption has always been that my family has handled Thanksgiving much like most other families, but who knows. Maybe we were one of the very few not taking part in an ornate, pre-dawn ritual sacrifice of a turkey upon a bed of cornstalks and pumpkins.
Regardless, happy Thanksgiving.
~ ~ ~
Required Thanksgiving WKRP reference: WKRP's Thanksgiving Fiasco.
~ ~ ~
The county I spent many of my younger years residing in is occupying four columns of the front page of the New York Times today: Freed by DNA, Now Charged in New Crime. An excerpt:
Two years ago, [Steven] Avery emerged from prison after lawyers from one of those organizations, the Wisconsin Innocence Project at the University of Wisconsin Law School, proved that Mr. Avery had spent 18 years in prison for a sexual assault he did not commit.
But last week, back in rural Manitowoc County, back at his family's auto salvage yard, back at the trailer he had moved home to, Mr. Avery, 43, was accused once more. This time, he was charged in the death of Teresa Halbach, a 25-year-old photographer who vanished on Oct. 31 after being assigned to take pictures for Auto Trader magazine at Avery's Auto Salvage.
Uh, yikes. Bad things happen everywhere, of course, but stuff like this makes me be happy to be nestled in the middle of a big city.
Well, life at the new condo was going a bit too well, so I guess something had to come up sooner or later. Last night I was down in the basement when I made the following two observations:
- The building is composed of four residential units, plus substantial common areas, including two stairwells and a basement.
- The building has only four electric meters.
A half hour later, after some tedious tracing of electrical conduit, as well as five rounds of cutting power to our unit, I'd come to the exasperating conclusion that our meter feeds almost all of the lights in the basement, as well as the floodlights on the back of the building. We don't power the washer and dryer—the other first floor unit is stuck with that—but we feed more lights in the basement than exist in the rest of the common areas combined.
To say that's inequitable is a bit obvious. Regrettably, whether we'll be able to do anything about it is not nearly as clear. The condo docs for our building are somewhat vague, and in the end whether we have any recourse may come down to the agreed definition of "maintenance and repair," and whether that includes utility cost.
Lisa has already put me on notice that if we buy again, we won't be going condo. I'm not to that point yet, mainly because I'm not interested in mowing lawns and shoveling sidewalks, but if there is another condo in our future, it definitely needs to be approached with more suspicion.
We're in Madison, picking up some of Lisa's furniture. While most of it will be going into storage, starting tonight we'll have a few new nice things for the condo, such as a bed. (My old bed was too big for our new bedroom and had to go into storage itself.) The drive back may be a bit odd, as apparently we need to go through any open weigh stations for "national security" reasons.
It's kind of weird being in Madison this weekend, considering we'll be back for Thanksgiving in just four days. Despite it being mainly a working trip, we did get a little time for dinner and such, and after a failed trip to Marigold Kitchen, which apparently doesn't do dinner, and Tortilla's, which apparently no longer exists, we ended up in Middleton at the Hubbard Avenue Diner. The service seemed a bit slow considering the place appeared to be completely overstaffed, but the food was tasty and good.
Beyond that, not much. We expected an early morning, and turned in accordingly.
~ ~ ~
We're both sick of moving, and hopefully this excursion will be the last of its kind for some time.
Lisa and I have made the tactical decision to pretend that this evening's little excursion didn't actually happen.
At least we got a late dinner at Cafe Latte out of it.
CARAG Neighborhood, Minneapolis
The move is done, we've made progress unpacking, and it's snowing outside. I'm in a rare pleasant mood, and Lisa seems fairly chipper herself.
It feels good to be a homeowner.
~ ~ ~
We just got Internet access back this evening. If I owe you an email, please have patience. I have a lot of them to get through.
Unfortunately, these three links kind of go together.
- NY Times: Are U.S. Innovators Losing Their Competitive Edge? - "'For the first time in generations, the nation's children could face poorer prospects than their parents and grandparents did... We owe our current prosperity, security and good health to the investments of past generations, and we are obliged to renew those commitments.'"
- NY Times: Report Details F.D.A. Rejection of Next-Day Pill - "Top agency officials were deeply involved in the decision, which was 'very, very rare,' a top F.D.A. review official told investigators. The officials' decision to ignore the recommendation of an independent advisory committee as well as the agency's own scientific review staff was unprecedented, the report found. And a top official's 'novel' rationale for rejecting the application contradicted past agency practices, it concluded."
- Greetings from Idiot America - "The rise of Idiot America is essentially a war on expertise. [It represents] the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they're talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a preacher, or a scientist, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.
Lyndale Neighborhood, Minneapolis
1:27a.m., Thursday morning. We're finally homeowners. The movers arrive in less than seven hours.
~ ~ ~
The last day leading up to the closing wasn't without drama, of course. To close on the new place, we had to have the seller from the old place sign the cancellation for our previous contract. He'd verbally agreed to do that, but when his Realtor tried to get a hold of him, and later when our Realtor, Shawn, tried to get a hold of him, he made himself scarce. After a full morning of phone tag, the seller finally agreed to meet his Realtor at the Edina Realty offices at 1:00 to sign the cancellation. Not surprisingly, he didn't show. 2:00 passed, and then 3:00 began to loom with no progress being made. (The closing was scheduled for 4:00.) Eventually it took Shawn driving over to the old condo and catching the seller peeking out the window to get the document signed. Who knows, maybe the seller thought that by delaying he could get us to stay in the current condo. At best, all he did was piss everyone off.
Later on, the seller's Realtor was apologetic for his client's behavior. Shawn recounted what he had to do to get the signature, and the selling Realtor responded with a very telling statement: "Now you know what I've been dealing with for six months."
Whatever the case, it's finally over. All we need to do is move and clean up the old place, and we're done.
~ ~ ~
One other thing regarding the closing: Before leaving this evening, Shawn mentioned his boss had him give a Cliff Notes version of the mess during a team meeting. The framing for Shawn's talk? Warning signs for sales that will go bad.
~ ~ ~
Our cable won't get set up at the new place until later next week, so it's likely there will be silence around these parts until the 16th or 17th.
The lack of Internet access or cable may be good for me, though. I have a lot of studying to do.
If all goes well, tomorrow at this time we'll be homeowners.
~ ~ ~
I'm still in kind of a bad mood about the condo situation. It's not that moving is an expensive pain in the ass, although that's true, nor that we're losing a fair amount of space in the move, although that's true as well. It's more that when you've never owned your own place, and you spend a lot of time looking for a place, and then you find it, and then spend a lot of money to get it, and then go through a lot of work to move into it, and then begin to get comfortable in it, and then realize that you don't actually own it, and that you're never going to, well, it's kind of frustrating, and a bit depressing.
I don't know, maybe it's odd to feel sentimental about a place I've lived in for less than two months. What I can say is that this is the first move I've made that really feels difficult outside of the usual annoyances of moving. I'm excited about the new place, but at the same time the feeling of loss is tangible.
Not for Lisa, though. She's ready to get out.
~ ~ ~
American Family Insurance's website is spectacularly annoying to use, and completely useless to boot. This evening I went there to update our condo insurance, which I'd forgotten to do in our rush to closing. Setting up an account was a pain in the ass, mainly because of the security questions they presented new users:
Of those questions, there was only one for which I had even a remote chance of coming up with a repeatable answer. AmFam's site requires three. Then there was this fantastic functionality:
It turns out what they actually meant was "non-numeric characters." OK, but is my 8:00 am or pm? AmFam's site must have some wonderful way of figuring that out, but they sure as hell won't let me just tell them.
In the end, though, the effort was for nothing, as their site doesn't even allow users to update or change their policies. Instead, the site tells users to contact their agents for any changes. What a bunch of stone age, cave-dwelling motherfuckers.
It's too bad Progressive doesn't offer property insurance. I'd be all over that.
The condo closing is now scheduled for Wednesday instead of tomorrow due to a delay with the appraisal. Our rate was supposed to go up on Wednesday, but thankfully our contact at Edina Realty Home Mortgage was able to get the rate extended one extra day. In all, this may end up being a good thing, as the punks at Lisa's bank—and this just astounds me—told her today that it may take one to two more business days for them to release her funds for the down payment.
Meanwhile, back at the old condo, we found out that the selling Realtor hasn't yet told the seller, i.e., our current upstairs neighbor, that we're canceling the purchase. The seller is out of state helping a friend deal with a dying relative, and while I've been planning on breaking the news to him if his Realtor doesn't, there's a distinct chance he may find out by noticing that our stored belongings have disappeared from the basement. That kind of, uh, sucks.
~ ~ ~
In 48 hours, we may finally be homeowners. Or we may not. With the way this entire experience has gone, I won't believe it until we have the papers signed and keys in hand.
Casualties of the weekend include a condo purchase and a guinea pig named Simone.
~ ~ ~
First, the pig: Simone, a spunky little black and white character Lisa has had for more than five years, had been battling what appeared to be a virus for the past few weeks. The vet had her on medication, and she seemed to be getting better. This weekend, though, Simone's situation took a nasty turn for the worse. Maybe it was a tumor, not uncommon for older guinea pigs, or maybe it was the result of an accident in the cage. (She'd been acting unusually skittish the past few weeks, and had been running around and bumping into things.) Whatever it was, it caused her to stop eating and for her right eye to bloat and protrude from its socket. 4:00pm on Saturday she was fine; 10:00pm on Saturday she was not.
Upon Lisa's return this evening, the pig's condition led to the inevitable: A trip to the Animal Emergency Clinic in St. Paul, and, after some review, Simone being put to sleep.
The visit to the clinic was both surreal and ridiculous: Despite the vet on call constantly talking REALLY FUCKING LOUD, he didn't seem to actually know what he was talking about, leaving Lisa to go on her own experience and previous conversations with other vets to make her decisions. The admin working at the front desk didn't do much better: Lisa put down a $175 deposit when she came in, and the staff did $134 worth of work, including the euthanasia. Apparently lacking basic math skills, the admin turned around and charged Lisa $41, and then told her due to technical reasons they couldn't give her a credit until the next morning.
The waiting room experience was very odd: I ran into a former coworker, Dan of Fontosaurus. Generally that would've been a good thing, of course, but considering the venue "it's good to see you" didn't quite seem appropriate. Aside from that, Lisa and I spent a lot of time listening to the two oversized butch women who had come in with a rat that had been, as one put it, "bleeding from her vulva," leading to a paperwork conversation between the two that went like this:
"It says here I'm supposed to ask how many other rats you have."
"Just say 'a lot.'"
Trying to find a distraction from the rat owners, I grabbed a nearby copy of Minnesota Monthly so we could see who they rated as the best pizza place in the metro. Not knowing the contents of the magazine, I opened it up to a random page, and—I'm not making this up—landed on a full-page picture of Cuy served at Chino Latino.
Cuy, for those of you not familiar, is roasted guinea pig.
~ ~ ~
Second, the condo: Late last week we finally got a closing date for the condo, Tuesday, November 8th. Somewhat regrettably, thought, it wasn't for the place we're currently living in.
This is where we first intended to live:
Instead, this is where we'll be living:
On a detail level, the switch is somewhat of a wash: The new place costs $100 more than what we expected to pay for the current place. It's in a better neighborhood and is more structurally solid than where we are now, but is about a 150 square feet smaller and lacks off-street parking. There are other trade-offs: The lack of space has forced us to rent a storage locker, but the lower association fee will almost cancel that out. Unlike the currently place, the new building's kitchen and bathroom won't need to be updated, but by moving we'll be loosing a sunroom and one of the best decks I've ever seen.
Moving again isn't something either Lisa or I wanted to do, but in the end our hands were kind of forced. The current condo has been a nonstop train wreck, and each time we felt the situation had reached the ultimate level of absurdity, something else would come along and top it. First there was the seller being unable to get a partial release on his mortgage. Then the closing fell through and was followed by weeks of the seller, his Realtor and Edina' Realty's legal department supposedly trying to get a hold of the lender to force the partial release. Then there was the plan to sell the remaining units and close everything at the same time. (That would have required two other buyers, neither of whom materialized.) Then an open house was scheduled, but the selling Realtor didn't show, and hardly anyone else did, either. Then there was supposedly going to be an offer on the other lower unit. Then there was supposedly going to be an offer on the other upper unit. Then the seller's Realtor was going to buy one of the units so only one other unit would have to be sold to close the entire building. Then he wasn't going to buy it, just provide financing.
And then, last weekend, the seller let slip that he'd had to cash in his 401k to pay off a contractor and that his lender was constantly calling him because he wasn't making his mortgage payments. I'd previously talked to a lawyer about the situation, and basically what he told me was that Lisa and I were in good shape as long as the seller didn't lose control of the building. We started looking for new places that night, and within four days had a purchase agreement for the new place. The inspection was done Friday, the closing will hopefully happen on Tuesday, and the movers arrive on Thursday.
The guy selling the current building seems to be a truly nice guy, and Lisa and I both hope the condo conversion works out well for him, but if it doesn't, we can't let him take us down with him. Right now, the risks just look too great.
What a mess.
~ ~ ~
While our time here has been unusual, our exit apparently is pretty odd as well: Our Realtor told us he's never heard of a sale moving from the purchase agreement to closing in only six days, and that his coworkers are watching to see if he can pull it off.
And now, in no particular order, the top six things I've done so far this weekend while the girlfriend is away visiting her folks:
- Studied for the GRE
- Cared for a sick guinea pig
- Bought a toaster
- Made breakfast
- Read in bed
- Emptied the storage locker in the basement
More on that last item later.